9 Popular Phrases, And Where They Actually Came From

Do you ever stop to think how certain phrases originated? Here are some I found to be pretty interesting, hope you do too. Enjoy:


1. Go the whole nine yards

During World War II, US fighter planes in the south pacific were equipped with machine gun ammunition belts that measured approximately 27 feet or 9 yards. When a pilot emptied all his ammo at a target, he was said to have given them the whole nine yards.

2. Rub the wrong way

In colonial America, servants were required to wet-rub and dry-rub the oak wood floors each week. Doing it against the grain caused streaks to form, making the wood look awful which irritated the homeowner. It rubbed him the wrong way.

3. Run amok 

Originates from the Malaysian word amoq which describes the behavior of tribesmen who under the influence of opium, became wild, rampaging mobs who attacked anyone who dared get in their way.

4. Curiosity killed the cat.

This one is pretty mind boggling. In 1935, scientist Erwin Schrodinger proposed the theory that something can exist in multiple states (alive/dead) and that the act of measuring the observation (checking the state of the cat) will affect the outcome. He came to this conclusion after having come up with the following thought experiment; we place a cat into a steel chamber along with a device which has an exact 50/50 change of blowing up and therefore killing the cat. The observer cannot know whether the device has blown up and killed the cat at any given time. According to quantum law, the cat is both dead and alive and is in a state of superposition. It is only when the steel chamber is open that the cat becomes one or the other, dead or alive. Therefore the observer’s curiosity killed the cat.

5. Rule of thumb

17th century English judge Sir Francis Buller ruled that it was permissible for a husband to beat his wife with a stick as long as the stick he used was no wider than his thumb. It is also said that this saying originated from merchants using their thumb to measure items that were for sale.

6. Easy as pie

This one’s self-explanatory. It is said to have originated in the 19th century. Writers such as Mark Twain frequently used the world pie to convey feelings of pleasantness. Easy as (eating) pie.

7. Break a leg

This is a phrase often used in theater business. It is believed that wishing someone good luck as they go on stage will actually have the opposite effect, therefore, they use the phrase break a leg so as not to jinx the performance.  It is also speculated that this phrase originated when people during a Shakespeare play would bang their chairs on the floor instead of applauding, sometimes so hard they would literally break a leg off the chair.

8. Saved by the bell

Not just a name of a popular 90’s show.  In the past, being buried alive was not as rare as it is today. It was quite common to bury people in special coffins that connected by a string to a bell above ground. If someone found themselves in this dire situation, all they had to do was pull the string. Ingenious.

9. Catch 22

This is the title of a book written by Joseph Heller, published in 1961. It is meant to convey a paradox in which an attempt to escape made escape impossible. “There was only one catch, and that was catch 22, which specified that a concern for one’s safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind or was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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